Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/23/17

1. When I am forced to be away from Ethics Alarms for a long time, as was the case yesterday, it often renews my musings about whether I respond too much to reader comments. Everyone generally does just fine when I’m silent, and sometimes I find that fascinating and unexpected new topics have not only sprung from whatever ethics fertilizer I left behind,  but have grown and flourished like bamboo.

Unfortunately, I have also noticed that there have been a lot ( as in “too many”) of extended arguments between commenters that not only extend beyond reasonable limits, but also explode into personal attacks. I admit that Ethics Alarms is, for a moderated blog, unusually tolerant of this phenomenon. One reason for that is that sometimes such epic confrontations are both entertaining and enlightening, as when liberal commenter and Ethics Alarms immortal tgt and uber-conservative commenter Steven J. Pilling engaged in the Ethics Alarms equivalent of the Lincoln Douglas debates, only occasionally snapping and calling each other names.

However, while the occasional emotional outbursts are excusable, they should be rare. Reprimanding a commenter for  commenting style and habits is certainly fair, but doing it repeatedly is boring; and I want to remind everyone that while it is often frustrating, allowing someone to have the last word is not capitulation, especially when that last word is not particularly persuasive.

We also owe ourselves and everyone else self-awareness. When a commenter finds himself or herself repeatedly embroiled in long, heated exchanges, that commenter should consider the possibility that he or she is the problem.

The general principle is that we should strive to have all comments contain substance that advances the discussion. “You’re an asshole” is occasionally justified (when a comment has objectively revealed a commenter to be an asshole, and even then is not mandatory), but rarely.

2. When President Trump issued his trolling tweet about James Comey and the possibility that there were “tapes” of their conversations, I wrote that it was the President’s dumbest tweet to date. (I think he has made worse ones since, but at this point any tweet by the President is evidence of crippling stubbornness, impulsiveness and bad judgment). I did not think that what was obviously a bluff without substance would still be considered a headline-worthy issue many weeks later.

3. Speaking of idiots, Johnny Depp alluded to assassinating President Trump while he was appearing at a film festival in England to introduce a screening of his film “The Libertine.” (The Wrap has a slide show of  show business elite who have had similar fantasies. They are, of course, all offset by Ted Nugent, so neither “side” is worse than the other…) Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted

“I’ve read the Republican “health care” bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives.”

Her colleague, Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said yesterday that the newly unveiled Senate Republican health care bill is in some ways “more evil”  than the House proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.

They Democrats can’t help themselves. They are now addicted to violent and demonizing rhetoric, and their “base,” like Depp,  cannot be restrained either. This rhetoric was unethical when it started in the wake of the shocking 2016 election results, and is more dangerous and irresponsible the longer it goes on. Once I would have speculated that the incivility and hatred would start receding when someone got shot, but the careful analysis from the Left, including the news media, is that when a Bernie Sanders supporter with a list of “evil” Republican targets in his pocket starts picking off House members with a rifle, it’s because of inadequate gun laws protected by those same targeted Republicans. Now I have to believe that this provocative rhetoric will only stop when a unifying and courageous Democratic leader condemns it without implicating “both sides,” or when the party leadership realizes that significant numbers of the American public, including many who are not enjoying the leadership of President Trump, do not want to support a party that traffics in calls for violence, insurrection and hate.

4. Here’s a misleading and unethical headline that even the New York Times realized would be a cheap shot: “Supreme Court Rules 9-0 Against Trump Administration in Immigration Case.” This miscreant this time is law professor Jonathan Turley, a political moderate (for a law professor) who has been increasingly tempted by Trump-bashing of late.

The Supreme Court yesterday vacated a lower courts’ decision to denaturalize a U.S. citizen because she made a false statement to an immigration official, and remanded the case for further review. Justice  Kagan wrote the 9-0 opinion in Maslenjak v. United States, which said that before citizenship can be cancelled, the government must first show that an illegal act, like lying, was an important factor during the naturalization process. Turley makes it appear as if one more anti-immigrant measure by that mean, xenophobic Trump administration has been decisively slapped down by SCOTUS, but the case arose out of an Obama administration effort to strip a woman of citizenship because she had been unthruthful about minor matters on her citizenship papers.

“When the illegal act is a false statement, that means demonstrating that the defendant lied about facts that would have mattered to an immigration official, because they would have justified denying naturalization or would predictably have led to other facts warranting that result,” Kagan wrote.  Seems reasonable, but no one in the news media focused on this policy while Obama was President. Now the ruling is a rebuke for the Trump administration.

5. I no longer consider PolitiFact, the partisan fact-checking service favored by progressives and Democrats because it’s…a partisan fact-checking service—worthy of full posts, but here’s a good example of how the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald-operated site reveals its bias. It examines a Fox News report on another new study on voting by unqualified non-citizens and finds it “False.” But note:

  • While the study said that as many as 5.7 million such votes might have been cast, and  “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt said on the air, “5.7 million — that’s how many illegal immigrants might have voted” in 2008, PolitiFact’s headline is “Following Trump voter fraud allegations, claim that 5.7 million noncitizens voted is wrong.”

This is terrible even by PolitiFact’s miserable standards. Neither the study nor Earnhardt said that 5.7 illegal voters voted, but that they might have voted. Nor did the study or the commentary on it “follow” President Trump’s tweets stating as fact that there was extensive illegal voting.

  • PolitiFact “proved” the study’s conclusions were “False” by choosing to believe one set of studies and researchers over those that progressive talking points routinely dispute. In a disagreement over methodology and assumptions, there is no objective “False” until hard data appears. Intuitively, I  think that the news media’s assertion that there is virtually no voter fraud with over 20 million non-citizens and many states, like California, making little effort to ensure the integrity of elections is unbelievable on its face, but I can’t state that it is “false.”

Nobody should use PolitiFact as an authority except in the rare cases where it chooses to knock down a blatant lie from its own camp. PolitiFact does this sometimes to maintain the illusion of fairness.

 

 

37 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Research and Scholarship

37 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/23/17

  1. #1. I resemble that part of your comment. No excuses, I’ll just try to do better.

  2. #2. I really wish President Trump would cease to use Twitter for anything; however, I think he is addicted to trolling.

  3. #3 What’s really sad is that none of that surprises me anymore.

    Jack, Have you seen Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s video about the blood money health care bill?

  4. #4 Wow; Professor Jonathan Turley is certainly an ignorant political hack.

    • No, he isn’t. He bites where he thinks is right, you should Google some of the interviews he did about Hillary’s server.

      • Aaaa I hadn’t thought of it that way; so he’s not an ignorant political hack, he’s a shrewd political hack. 😉

        • I think you need to read some of his stuff. “Hack”, to me, has connotations that lead me to picture someone always swinging one way, and Turley doesn’t. He’s opinionated, sure… But he isn’t afraid to buck party lines in the slightest.

          • HT,
            Do you know that that comes across as a rationalization?

            • “You need to actually know what you’re talking about in order to have an informed opinion” isn’t a rationalization.

              • Here HT, I’ll spell it out for you.

                You wrote, “I think you need to read some of his stuff. “Hack”, to me, has connotations that lead me to picture someone always swinging one way, and Turley doesn’t. He’s opinionated, sure… But he isn’t afraid to buck party lines in the slightest.”

                You know good and well that’s a spin off of the 14. Self-validating Virtue rationalization. It doesn’t matter what he’s done in the past or that maybe his words tomorrow will be different; but, this self-contained opinion from Professor Jonathan Turley is that of an ignorant political hack words.

                When I’m a jerk, it doesn’t make a bit of difference that I wasn’t a jerk yesterday or the day before and maybe I won’t be a jerk tomorrow, what counts is this moment, this comment, this blog, this article, etc.

                • No one employing the self validating virtue would ever start it off with “I think you need to read some of his stuff”.

                  • Humble Talent wrote, “No one employing the self validating virtue would ever start it off with “I think you need to read some of his stuff”.”

                    Really HT; where is that written?

                    I think you’ve missed the point; never mind.

                    • “Really HT; where is that written?”

                      In the words “self validating”

                      Because If you send someone for more information on the subject of an assertion, that assertion isn’t self-validating anymore, it’s corroborated.

                    • Humble Talent wrote, “In the words “self validating”

                      Because If you send someone for more information on the subject of an assertion, that assertion isn’t self-validating anymore, it’s corroborated.”

                      So if you provide corroborating information that a person doing something unethical has never done anything unethical before in their entire life, then that persons unethical act should’t be considered unethical anymore; okay, I got it now. Thanks for the explanation in logic that I obviously missed.

                      I hope you’re okay with the fact hat you still haven’t convinced me that Professor Jonathan Turley is not an ignorant political hack in regards with what he wrote about this.

                    • You’re a frustrating individual, Z. I’m not saying that Professor Turley has never or will never say or do anything unethical in his life… I’m responding to you calling him a hack. Alls I’m saying is that you have no idea what you’re talking about. You don’t know him, you haven’t read his material, all you’ve heard is Jack say that in the case of Trump, Turley has gotten more animated than usual, and if that’s enough for you to make that assertion… I mean, I can’t stop you… I don’t particularly care (although you’d be forgiven for assuming I did based on the number of replies I’ve just made), but if that’s where your rhetoric level sits… I’ll just know that the next time you call someone a hack, it’s basically meaningless.

                    • Humble Talent wrote, “You’re a frustrating individual, Z.”

                      I resemble that remark [ 🙂 ], but hey at least I didn’t go with signature significance. (poke, poke, jab, jab, 😉 😉 😉 )

                      HT sure my use of the word hack was pushing it. Be honest, if someone you actually considered to be a ignorant political hack had written the exact same thing, then it would be another writing showing that the person is a ignorant political hack; the words are the same, it’s just the perception is different because of past writings.

                      I’ll drop it now.

          • What Turley said is signature significance. Any ethics alarms he every had have eroded to dust if he can suggest this. Societies cannot survive with this level of malice being fostered.

            • Signature significance, my ass. Put it into words, willy, tell us all, clearly, what Turley did that so sullies his reputation forever going forward. And then, reread it and see if you feel a little shame for suggesting it.

              • HT, Yup, I mixed Turley up with Professor Johnny Eric Williams. I withdraw my comment about Turley (and apply it to Williams)

                What I get for playing catch up after being behind in my reading!

  5. #5 I don’t think PolitiFact is worth more than single sentence anymore. If they keep down the path they been heading all you’ll need to do is repeat this definition;

    PolitiFact: Political tool of the Democratic Party delivering propaganda to blithering idiots.

  6. #5 I wonder what Democrats would think of Voter ID if Russia started a program to register its citizens for voting in our elections.

  7. Steve-O-in-NJ

    “I have to believe that this provocative rhetoric will only stop when a unifying and courageous Democratic leader condemns it without implicating “both sides,” or when the party leadership realizes that significant numbers of the American public, including many who are not enjoying the leadership of President Trump, do not want to support a party that traffics in calls for violence, insurrection and hate.”

    With respect, Jack, I’m not sure I can think of such an individual. Republicans DO sometimes turn on one of their own who’s gone too far, but I can’t think of too many Democrats who have done the same. The last time I can think of a prominent Democrat falling because of outrageous behavior is Eliot Spitzer. Even so, that was only because he had out-sleazed Bill Clinton by patronizing multiple prostitutes. Even so, he was not without his defenders, and cast his decision to resign as not letting the people’s important work be interrupted by personal failings.

    I can’t for the life of me think of any politician on either side who’s publicly called for his/her own party, and ONLY his/her own party, to tamp down excessive rhetoric. I can’t for the life of me think of any politician on either side who’s called for groups traditionally on the side of that party and only those groups to cool it. By all rights the Governor of Missouri should have been on TV telling the rioters in Ferguson to disperse or he was sending in the National Guard, and by all rights the mayor of Baltimore should have come down like an anvil in the wake of the Freddie Gray nonsense, but instead they let black, liberal rioters run amuck because their sympathies lay with them.

    The fact is that politics in this nation has become so tribal that no one can step outside the ranks of his own party without getting turned on as unsupportive or a turncoat or a RINO/DINO. The fact also is that the major figures, especially on the Democratic side of things now, aren’t interested so much in being statesmen first and politicians second as in attacking the other side in increasingly vicious ways, the latest being Elizabeth Warren telling Trump he hasn’t seen nasty yet, in addition to the blood money and other rhetoric above. That’s great, Liz. I’m sure the president is just shaking in his wing tips. Apparently no one ever told her you sound like an idiot when you make threats you can’t carry through on or are likely to fall VERY short on. Of course this isn’t high school, where the object of your threats can meet you in the parking lot and you can slug it out, but that rhetoric doesn’t sound too different than kids’ rhetoric.

    I’d also note that Charles Krauthammer famously said fifteen years ago that “Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.” At the time I just thought of it as a pithy attack by a smart but very biased (everyone knows where CK is coming from) pundit. Now Christopher Murphy has shown it to have at least some truth to it. I must admit, I thought last year’s election poster based on Star Wars that showed Obama as the Emperor and Hillary as Darth Vader, with Trump, Cruz, Carson and Rubio as lightsaber-wielding Jedi Knights (the heroes of the Star Wars universe)who were going to “Restore the Republic” was both funny and clever, but now, in retrospect, that kind of rhetoric and imagery was unwise.

    I’m a fantasy writer when I’m not a lawyer. It’s both fun and entertaining to tell a story where the enemy is either irredeemably evil (Cersei Lannister, Dolores Umbridge, Mordred), or inhumanly so (Sauron, Darth Vader, Voldemort). It’s also easy on the head, you really don’t have to do anything but hate the villain, there’s no need to get in his head and figure him out. However, in real life we don’t deal with black knights, or cyborgs, or evil wizards who have damaged their own souls, or fallen demigods who abuse their greater than mortal power simply because they can. Even the villains of the Tom Clancy/Larry Bond universe – Islamic fundamentalists prepared to abuse found nuclear weapons, Japanese power brokers whose families never got over WWII, Afrikaaner racial purists just the south side of Nazis, French ministers with new delusions of grandeur far beyond De Gaulle, belong to the realm of fantasy, since they are usually too two-dimensional to be real. No real person is like these characters, and to try to equate someone with them simply because you don’t agree with them is simply to give yourself a moral pass to hate them and a right to ignore their side of things.

    We’ve been through the examination of history a few times. The truly evil are few and far between, and usually easy to see – marauding serial killers, soulless corporate looters, and the few who become tyrants. Ted Bundy was evil. Kenneth Lay was evil. Hitler was evil. No man who has occupied the White House has been anywhere near the level of those human disasters. All have been human, and all have had flaws. Some have been men of their times who would not be accepted now (Jefferson, Jackson). Some have had major character defects (notably Wilson, the biggest racist ever to be president). Some haven’t been up to the job (Pierce, Carter, Obama). A few have had their errors and misdeeds catch up to them (Harding, and of course Nixon). All of them have made some decisions that have been later questioned or criticized and nearly all (with the possible exception of James Monroe, who briefly had no opposition as the Federalist Party went out of existence and was not yet replaced by the Whigs on his watch) have done some things that others, maybe even many others, didn’t agree with. This does not make any of them evil. To pronounce the president or a president evil because his outlook doesn’t match yours or he did something you didn’t agree with is again, giving yourself a pass to hate the president and all that he does without really thinking it through.

    That’s the mentality of, frankly, a teenager, and not a very bright one at that. It’s the mentality of my college hallmate who couldn’t open his mouth without bashing Bush the elder, and who referred to the ROTC students as baby-killers. Yawn. It’s the mentality of a high school classmate who said he’d like to assassinate Reagan because the bastard was going to turn the cold war hot. No you won’t, because the Secret Service will shoot you dead if you try. It’s the mentality of another high schooler who, on hearing an anecdote about one of General Patton’s admittedly pompous statements in history class, said he would have kicked his ass on the spot. The hell you would have. A general is surrounded by staff and bodyguards, all armed, all of whom would make very short work of a mouthy fifteen-year-old.

    Although the true believers in the Democratic Party will go right along with all of this, there is still a good chunk of the party, and most of the independents, who still have a functioning brain and aren’t interested in taking the same side as people who act like arrested fourteen-year-olds running on testosterone, anger, and hate, who want to do their thing, their way, with no one to tell them no, who feed this mentality further with Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbusters, Conan paperbacks (and endless knock-offs), and porn hidden from parents.

    A pool of people like that can’t produce a Sam Nunn, a Scoop Jackson, a Harry Truman, or anyone both parties can respect, any more than a pile of scraps and entrails can produce a prime tenderloin. The Democratic Party and the media said a year ago that the Republican Party was going to sign its political death warrant if it nominated Trump. It looks like the Democratic Party may be signing ITS OWN political death warrant in slow motion now.

  8. Chris

    1. Sorry. I am trying to do better.

    2. Of course the president admitting that he purposefully misled the public in order to intimidate the FBI director he fired is newsworthy. It would be newsworthy if any president did it. You’re holding Trump to a lower standard–“Oh, empty bluffing is just what he does.” Don’t let him off the hook for it. This was obscene, and adds more fuel to the obstruction investigation.

    3. Fuck Johnny Depp.

    But I don’t see the remarks you highlighted from Democrats to have any connection. Calling legislation “evil” is not a call to violence. You can go back and find Republicans engaging in similar rhetoric over Obamacare. Sarah Palin falsely claimed the ACA might kill her disabled child. That’s not a call to violence, and neither is Elizabeth Warren correctly pointing out that the House and Senate bills are about tax cuts for the rich at the expense of healthcare for the poor.

    4. The final sentence of the lede in Turley’s article does point out the Obama administration’s involvement:

    “Notably, the Obama Administration had taken the same hard position in the case and the Trump Administration continued that position on the appeal.”

    But as slickwilly pointed out the other day, most people don’t read past the headline, so I can see how the headline is misleading.

    5. I think it’s fair for a fact-checking agency to make a judgment about the validity of a scientific study. The number is obviously implausible, and is being used to further political propaganda; lots of people who are not experts in statistics might want to get a fact-check on this issue; and the study has obvious flaws that even I know make it invalid. I think Politifact’s conclusions hold up here.

    • #3. It’s less a matter of the severity of the democrat rhetoric (though a large amount of it is severe), I think the trouble the quantity of the democrat rhetoric. It is a flood of extreme and near extreme rhetoric that is troubling (and inciteful).

  9. RomanBW

    Excellent rejoinder Chris. Keep it up!
    “But I don’t see the remarks you highlighted from Democrats to have any connection. Calling legislation “evil” is not a call to violence. You can go back and find Republicans engaging in similar rhetoric over Obamacare. Sarah Palin falsely claimed the ACA might kill her disabled child. That’s not a call to violence, and neither is Elizabeth Warren correctly pointing out that the House and Senate bills are about tax cuts for the rich at the expense of healthcare for the poor.”

    • It’s a terrible “rejoinder.” Evil implies malice. Malice is an element of a crime. Sarah Palin didn’t claim the ACA would kill her child, she said that the medical care triage that such systems demand could determine that someone like her child would be denied care. She did not say that anyone was TRYING to kill her child. When conduct is called evil, that is a justification, in the minds of many, for violence: eliminating evil is good. Disagreements over policy do not make either policy evil.

      As long as the Left uses that term, it is courting and encouraging violence.

      • Chris

        I’d call Bill Cosby’s actions toward women evil. Does that mean I am providing a justification for violence against him?

        • Evil criminals have a tendency to be murdered in prison. 1) Cosby is evil, not a politician who has a policy position that progressives object to, and 2) putting out the idea that a politician is the equivilent of a mass rapist, serial killer or Hitler i, in fact, a provocation to violence.

          • Chris

            That didn’t answer my question.

            • It did; you just don’t like the answer. Yes, calling anyone “evil” is putting a target on his back: where do you think the debate about whether it’s OK to punch “Nazis” came from?

          • Chris

            And I didn’t equate any politician to Cosby. I didn’t even call any politician “evil,” though if I had, that would still not be saying they’re the same as Cosby or Hitler. There are degrees of evil; you’ve applied the term to both Cosby and Hitler, but do you really think those two men are equally evil?

            • If A is evil and B is evil, A and B are both evil, and are equated. Evil means “profoundly immoral and wicked.” Your argument is a #22: oh, well, he’s evil, but not the MOST evil.

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