Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/29/2017

Good Morning!

1. There are several accurate and fair points in the New York Times overview of the Obamacare repeal and replace fiasco, as well as some details that all add up top one thing: the GOP, top to bottom, wasn’t prepared to follow up on the promises it was making during the campaign. To be responsible and honest, it should have had the substitute plan for the Affordable Care Act crafted, analyzed and ready before the 2016 campaign was even underway—you know, one that still dealt with pre-existing condition problem, capped mediacl negligence lawsuit awards. and took steps to lower health care cots while giving the public more choices rather than fewer and not adding to the national debt. Instead, they just used a false promise to stir up the base, like Harold Hill railing about the new pool table corrupting the youth in River City. It was a con job, in other words, all along. Incredibly, the Times reports—assuming that what it reports is true, and of that we can never be sure, remember—

“Vote yes, Republican leaders told the holdouts in their conference. We promise it will never become law. After seven years of railing against the evils of the Affordable Care Act, the party had winnowed its hopes of dismantling it down to a menu of options to appease recalcitrant lawmakers — with no more pretenses of lofty policy making, only a realpolitik plea to keep the legislation churning through the Capitol by voting to advance something, anything.”

That’s nauseating, and unethical governance and politics at its worst.

Other notes from the article

  • “A ruling party that never expected to win. A conservative base long primed to accept nothing less than a full repeal. An overpromising and often disengaged president with no command of the policy itself and little apparent interest in selling its merits to the public.”

It’s fine to face reality when you appear to be defeated. It is unethical to run for office without being as prepared to win as you would be if your were the frontrunner.

  • “Yet in private sessions…Republicans worried about being saddled with a politically toxic “Trumpcare,” with some acknowledging that their dual promises — repealing the law swiftly without pulling the rug out from Americans — could not be reconciled.”

This just occurred to them? Wasn’t this obviously a problem that could have been predicted since. oh, 2010?

  • “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, assembled a working group of 13 senators to draft the legislation — all of them male — excluding Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Collins.”

What a moron.

2. J.K Rowling, Harry Potter’s mommy who hates our President with a passion, sent out a re-tweet of an edited video appearing to show President Trump snubbing a child in a wheelchair. She wrote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou …”

The tweet had gone viral, with more than 58 thousand retweets. It’s also carrying a lie. The actual, unedited video shows the President kneeling and talking to the boy. Now the tweet itself and the page of the tweeter has vanished.

Rowling has shown us that she is a foreign citizen using her influence to spread fake news in an effort to undermine our government. Someone should turn her into a newt.

3. In a Washtenaw County, Michigan, courtroom, Danta Wright, 17, smirked and smiled as he had to listen to as his murder victim’s family berate him and tell him what they had done to their lives.  In order to get a plea deal that would avoid the maximum sentence for his crime,Wright had confessed that he and two other friends shot and killed  Jordan Klee, 18, in the course of a robbery,

His repulsive and shameless lack of remorse  caused 22nd Circuit Court Judge David Swartz to tell him,

“Watching you sit there, smile, laugh, shake your head like this was no big deal— I’m very tempted to just say, ‘I’m not going to accept this sentencing agreement and we’ll go to trial’ and if you’re convicted of felony murder, you’ll go to prison for the rest of your life. That means you’ll die there. That’s what I’m tempted to do.”

This, according to some commentators, was sufficient to make Swartz a hero. The judge taught Wright a lesson. He sent a message. Baloney. Words are cheap. The judge decided to go ratify the plea deal rather than require this  sociopath to stand trial.  The sentence of 23 to 50 years in prison for Klee’s murder is substantial, but saying what one is tempted to do while not doing it is sending the message, “I don’t care enough or have the guts to do what I know I should do.”  It is virtue-signaling and grandstanding, nothing more.

4. Now THIS is an unethical lawyer: Jacqueline B. Jones, a lawyer in Syracuse, New York, is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 4 to enter a plea to charges that she phoned in a bomb threat to avoid a disciplinary hearing on an opposing lawyer’s request for bar sanctions against her. The maximum penalty is a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

5. In submitting this Slate article, “Jailing the Victim: Is it ever appropriate to put someone behind bars to compel her to testify against her abuser?” for consideration, Ethics Alarms Ethics Scout Fred asks whether a Hawaii prosecutor’s policy of offering residence in an abused women’s shelter in exchange for a woman’s testimony against  her abuser is “coercive in a way that a subpoena is not. The shelter placement might be a life-safety issue.”

Sure it’s more coercive. I see no difference ethically from this kind of unethical coercion and telling a victim that she can’t go to the hospital until she agrees to testify.

It’s interesting that so many proposals have surfaced lately trying to criminalize  failure to report crimes, or declining to intervene to assist others in peril. Punishing someone for not reporting a crime committed on themselves, however, or refusing to be proactive to protect society from his or her own attacker, extends a bad idea and an unethical one to its illogical extreme. Jailing material witnesses and accessories who refuse subpoenas can be justified; jailing someone as an  accessory to her own abuse breaches all known ethics systems.

36 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/29/2017

  1. Re: No. 1.

    All politicians know how to do these days is hire a political consultant who will get them elected/re-elected. They’re not legislators, they’re professional campaigners. They “play to their base,” get elected and then start raising money for their next campaign. “Draft legislation to solve a problem? What, are you nuts? I’ve got to go to a fund raiser.”

  2. On the Obamacare fiasco, cynicism is very much merited, but for slightly different reasons than you suggest.

    My sense is that populace got quickly accustomed to a significant change in social policy over the several years that Obamacare was in place.

    This means that, while Repeal and Replace was a pretty popular position at the outset of Obamacare, there has been a fundamental ground shift in the 7 years since it was passed. And it’s this shift that the GOP ignored.

    Just like gay marriage, civil rights, social security, and various other shifts in social programs and norms, public opinion has shifted significantly after enactment of legislation or legal opinions moving policy in a given direction (abortion may turn out to be a significant exception).

    By this view, it’s not that Republicans were directly cynical all along – they were correctly reading a lot of negative sentiment back in 2011 – but it’s that they were too lazy to read the shifting polls and adjust their rhetoric accordingly in the years that followed. The original anti-Obamacare are no less anti-big-government than they used to be; but many of them now include healthcare in the category with Medicare and Social security, as somewhat exempt policies.

    The upshot? I don’t think far-right candidates are going to get much mileage out of accusing the incumbents as having been to soft on “repeal and replace;” it’ just not the issue that it used to be.

    • I agree that the public mood is changing. Part of the explanation for the trend is the aging of the baby boomers, and therefore the voting population. The individual mandate is the essence of Obamacare, and it transfers wealth from young to old. Hard to see this getting less popular as the baby boomers age.

      • “The individual mandate is the essence of Obamacare, and it transfers wealth from young to old.”

        Not exactly… The individual mandate is an actuarial requirement of a functioning insurance system. You can’t sell fire insurance if the only people who are going to buy it are those who live next to match factories. You need everyone in on the system in order to lower policy rates for all.

        The wealth transfer is an adjustable component: just because you require everyone get insurance doesn’t mean you can’t shift the young/old balance. That becomes a social policy question to be hashed out. But I think it’s independent of the individual mandate issue/

    • People like entitlements, whether they are good policy or not. That’s why socialism never ratchets back, until it crashes. The Democrats knew that. People like free stuff, as Rush Limbaugh put it.

      • 1. Past entitlements had buy-in from both parties. Obamacare never did.

        The problem was partially, “the Resistance,” including the violence. Part of it is pique over Trump’s win (he is a true outsider, and the three Republicans who voted “no” were stereotypical establishment types). Part of it is the fact that the Democrats were united to defend Obama’s legacy. Part of it is because some putative Republicans (Joe Scarborough, Nicolle Wallace, et al) are embarrassed by some actual GOP positions and are now well-paid to be the “reasonable Republicans” who scold the conservatives when they got too uppity.

        I think a number of Republican incumbents will be voted out in this upcoming cycle… in the primary. Kid Rock already has a commanding lead in the GOP primary for the Michigan senate seat held by Stabenow, and he’s polling 3 points ahead of her in the general election match-up.

        Larry Schweikart has been tracking net voter registration changes, and in most of the battleground states, the Republicans have been gaining, despite Trump’s chaos and difficulty. In 18 months, we could very well see Trump with a stronger hand in the Senate than he once had.

    • I don’t think far-right candidates are going to get much mileage out of accusing the incumbents as having been to soft on “repeal and replace;” it’ just not the issue that it used to be.

      Charles, speaking from ‘fly over’ country: I don’t think you are getting a feel for the steaming simmer just on the verge of boiling this issue is out here. Folks see that the GOP really abused their base, and the mood is ugly on this issue. The Elites in DC are playing power games while their constituents suffer from lack of progress, progress that was the lynch pin in handing them the House, then the Senate, and finally POTUS. This is why RINO is an acceptable term here: the sons-of-bitches (and daughters, for that matter) never had a plan.

      There will be a reckoning. If Obamacare fails, costing voters personally, many in the GOP will be primaried by unknowns (under the ‘can’t be worse than what we have’ rationalization which gave us Trump.) Once this ball gets rolling, it could give control back to the Democrats, but I don’t think so. We may see a smattering of minor parties getting elected, some of which do not even exist right now.

      Angry voters are not rational, (as Trumps election showed us) and the chaos makes the future murky at best. But the bitter polarization of the electorate leads me to believe that the status quo of the past few decades will not be tolerated, from either side.

      • Slickwilly, clearly a lot of people agree with you, no doubt about it. They feel they’ve been sold down the river by the GOP (of all people) and will be out for revenge. I hear you.

        At the same time, you suggest “If Obamacare fails, costing voters personally…” And I don’t think that speaks for all of flyover country. There are plenty of other people who know that they only got insurance in the first place because of Obamacare, and more still who are very hip to the idea that if Obamacare fails, it will be because the Trumpster petulantly put his foot on its throat and tried to strangle it.

        How many of which category are there? I truly don’t know, and you may be right there are more of those you describe than those I describe, But there are both.

        There do seem to be genuine attempts in Congress, by a few, to make some (necessary) adjustments to the law of the land to make it workable, and IMHO we should all be supporting those folks, rather than getting caught in a pure ideological fight over what has come to just be a name, not a real program.


        • Charles,

          A fair comment, and I think we agree to the spirit of the way things should run. In a perfect world, there would be voices of reason on both sides of the aisle to calm the waters, and find a way out of the pickle.

          Having said that, I doubt Democrats will be trusted on this in any way by those who I described, simply based on Democrat past and current behavior. I fear the right has battered wives syndrome (GOP being the abusers) combined with an instinctive distrust of other abusers (Democrats) who have also beaten them in the past.

          There are plenty of other people who know that they only got insurance in the first place because of Obamacare…

          I have not looked (nor am I placing a research onus on you) but I do wonder what the numbers of Obamacare look like, in terms of ‘first insurance’ recipients based on location. I am betting that the demographic I am speaking of are not in that category (GOP supporting fly over country, mostly non urban) versus urban recipients in blue areas. Blue areas have a lot less of a tradition of self reliance than their rural cousins, and thus might be better disposed to take a hand out. However, the social rot in many areas have produced large numbers of welfare dependent people in rural areas, so total numbers might not be what I expect.

  3. Re J K Rowling:
    Is it the money that makes celebrities think their every thought must be gold? Maybe it’s the access to an audience. Whatever it is it seldom makes them look smarter. But, ignorant and vocal is what passes for thoughtful insight these days.

    • I think it’s more about maintaining that celebrity status. Rowling is no longer grabbing people’s attention by publishing new books, but doesn’t want to fade into obscurity.

      So she (like many others) engages in “Hey! Hey! Over here! Look at ME!” and it largely works at accomplishing its intended goal . . . which was really never about adding insightful thoughts to the public discussion in the first place.


      • That is probably true. I hope she quits doing this stuff soon. She wrote one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read. I’m starting to look at her work differently, which is unfair, but all her retroactive statements and writings about her original characters are unsettling and undermine the quality of the originals.

        • Of course, “original” was one thing they weren’t….the word is “derivative”, or perhaps, derivative as hell, written for an audience that doesn’t know the sources.

          • I think it’s a wonderful synthesis of all the fantasy that came before it. There isn’t much you can do with fantasy that doesn’t rely on mythology, and epic literature. I have always found it a great way to talk to kids about both genres.

              • I’ve gotta go with the wise woman from Wyoming (something I don’t always do). Wherever Harry Potter & Co. have been seen to be derived from — and I think those that were named were total nitpickings in the ridiculous sense that everything is “derived” from something (the lazy reviewer’s choice) — Rowling put it all together, plot, settings, atmosphere, dialog and especially character, book after book in both surprising and satisfying ways, something that is rarely understood and almost never achieved by those who write “for children” .

                Her personal opinions are, I agree, as you pointed out, about as valuable as any celebrities’, foreign or domestic… which is to say: nil. Few popular authors have been able to resist the lure of expressing their thoughts on anything.

  4. I thought the criticism of that video was stupid even before I knew it was edited. I loathe Trump, but I highly doubt he’d pass up an opportunity to shake a disabled child’s hand; I just assumed he didn’t see him. (He has had trouble finding a limo that was directly in front of him before.) I saw many people I respect using it as an example of Trump’s cruelty. So silly. Now that we know he did greet the boy, it’s even more embarrassing. Rowling should apologize to Trump and to her fans.

        • She hadn’t pulled the tweet as of July 31, when I wrote that. only after continued criticism, and as I said, the apology was a #10. How is it an acceptable apology that doesn’t apologize to the primary individual wronged? Did you miss the follow up post?

          • I did miss it, Jack. When I haven’t been able to check in for a few weeks, I always go back and start reading where I left off. In this case it was an egregious error on my part to mention the apology at all since I had only second-hand information that it existed, but hadn’t seen the actual content. So now, just speaking on my own behalf, I am sorry.

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