Monthly Archives: August 2017

Harvey Pet Rescue Ethics

I was watching a Fox News live feature about heroic efforts in Houston to rescue animal companions. I am an animal lover, and my wife is an animal worshiper, so this aspect of natural disasters is close to our hearts.

We were told that one sheriff has been going door to door for days searching for endangered non-humans in the flooded areas. Awwwww. Fox caught up with him as he was leaving one domicile with the owner, who had with him the rescued pet: his 9-year-old son’s…

hermit crab.

His name is Crabby.

Wait, what???

We’re arguing about such dire conditions in Houston that looters are running amuck, and hearing about overwhelmed rescuers and rising death rates, and this sheriff is spending hours rescuing hermit crabs?? The tragedy is down to that then? We’re at the endangered hermit crab stage of triage, are we?

Observations: Continue reading

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Snopes’ Credibility Death Spiral: Presenting The Straw Man Fact-Check

Apparently the recent example of Snopes resorting to proving a “claim” false that nobody serious was claiming wasn’t an anomaly, but a new strategy. Here, Ethics Alarms commenter Tippy Scales discussed the struggling urban-legend-turned-partisan-hack-site post in defense of ESPN’s ridiculous removal of Asian -American Robert Lee from a football broadcast because he shared a first and last name with Robert E. Lee. Its spin: the accusation that “ESPN Fired Announcer Robert Lee Because His Name Sounds Like the Confederate General’s? was wrong! Except that was not what happened, nor what critics of ESPM were objecting to.

Why would Snopes do this?  Tippy  opined that Snopes “couldn’t stand having to confirm something that went against their worldview, so they invented a reason to avoid it.” The real reason appears to be even worse than that. Snopes’ current game is to mislead readers by convincing them that criticism from the right is dishonest and absurd, by searching for self-evidently idiotic accusations and then disproving them…which isn’t difficult when the accusations were dredged up from the social media swamp by Snopes specifically to debunk.

Today’s example is hilarious. Snopes:

Fact Check: Was Barack Obama President During Hurricane Katrina?

Twitter users tried to pin the blame for Katrina relief issues on Obama, though he wasn’t even president when it hit New Orleans.

CLAIM: Barack Obama was president when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.
RATING: FALSE

ORIGIN: As damage from Hurricane Harvey continued to grow in Texas in late August 2017, some Twitter users sought to defend President Donald Trump’s response to the disaster by criticizing the actions of his predecessor, Barack Obama during similarly pervasive flooding in Louisiana in 2016. Other users took that argument even further, knocking Obama for not “doing enough” to help Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.

Continue reading

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From The “Didn’t I Tell You To Stop Making Me Defend President Trump?” Files, An Ethics Alarms Popeye: More On The Joe Arpaio Pardon

I would prefer not to keep talking about the Joe Arpaio pardon, but the news media and the “resistance” won’t let the pardon go, because in the absence of anything legitimate giving them cause to scream for an impeachment, they have to latch on to whatever they can. So this is a Popeye: I’m writing it because, as the spinach-living cartoon sailor would say, “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands no more!”

Oh, before I forget: here’s what the Southern Poverty Law Center says about the pardon:

“By pardoning Joe Arpaio, President Trump has demonstrated his contempt for the rule of law and the racism at the core of his agenda. Arpaio, a Trump favorite on the campaign trail, is the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. He was convicted of criminal contempt of court for intentionally violating a federal court order prohibiting racial profiling. As a result of President Trump’s pardon, Arpaio will never be held accountable for his unconstitutional conduct.”

Following this logic, by pardoning drug dealers President Obama proved that at heart, he is a drug dealer. By pardoning Chelsea Manning, President Obama proved that sharing classified information with our enemies is at the core of his agenda. This is a “law center”  including such tripe on its website? It sounds like the legally ignorant accusation often made against defense lawyers (like Hillary Clinton) that they endorse the crimes, motives and values of their clients.

In a front page article on Sunday, the New York Times tried to break its own record for desperately trying to make a case for Presidential wrongdoing while still stating the undeniable fact that no wrongdoing had occurred:

  • The Times states, correctly, “that there is nothing in the text of the Constitution’s pardons clause to suggest that [Trump] exceeded his authority.” But it tracks down yet another law professor who has allowed the anti-Trump brain virus to swallow his integrity. Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard, claimed that pardoning Arpaio “would express presidential contempt for the Constitution.”

Good thinking. The President expressed contempt for the Constitution by engaging in an action described and enacted in the Constitution. A better argument, though still unfair, would be that President Obama was expressing contempt for the Constitution by not using its pardon power provision even once within his first 400 days in office.

  • More from the Professor: “Arpaio didn’t just violate a law passed by Congress…His actions defied the Constitution itself, the bedrock of the entire system of government.” Yes, and so what? If that same document gives the President an open-ended power to forgive any crime, and it does, then this is just huffing and puffing.

All Feldman is saying is that he doesn’t believe that Arpaio’s particular crime should be pardoned. When you’re President, Professor, by all means let that standard be your guide.

  • By saying Mr. Arpaio’s offense was forgivable, Professor Feldman added, Mr. Trump threatens “the very structure on which his right to pardon is based.”

Note to  Professor Feldman: Get help. The reason the President has unlimited pardon power is because, in the view of the Constitution’s authors, any offense IS forgivable. Presidents have pardoned traitors, those who have killed American citizens. They have pardoned terrorists, and a President of the United States who plotted to subvert justice and our democracy itself. No Harvard Law professor has made the claim that any of those offenses were unpardonable (that is, literally, unforgivable). Why is that? Well, a) Trump is special and doesn’t deserves to be judged by the same standards as other Presidents, and b) the Left hates Arpaio beyond all proportion, because of his opposition to illegal immigration.

  • The Times writes, “It was the first act of outright defiance against the judiciary by a president who has not been shy about criticizing federal judges who ruled against his businesses and policies.” If this pardon is “outright defiance against the judiciary,” then most pardons are. Almost all pardons erase a judicial sentence or verdict.

This is misleading, biased, inflammatory, unethical journalism.

  • The Times writes,

“Mr. Trump could pardon any of the subjects of the special counsel’s Russia inquiry, though some legal specialists believe he could increase his risk of prosecution if he is seen as abusing his pardon power.Were Mr. Trump to announce that he has pardoned himself, impeachment would remain possible. A prosecutor might also test the limits of the pardon power by indicting Mr. Trump notwithstanding such an announcement. That clash could lead the Supreme Court to weigh in on the limits of the president’s power to spare himself from punishment for criminal wrongdoing.”

This story has nothing to do with impeachment! No evidence has been found that suggests the President has committed any impeachable acts. The Times story is about the Joe Arpaio pardon. How can the Times justify suddenly piling tangential hypothetical on top of tangential hypotheticals in this article to get to a scenario where the Supreme Court has to determine whether President Trump can pardon himself for crimes as yet unalleged and undiscovered? Well, the reporter is Adam Liptak, the epitome of what Instapundit calls “Democratic operatives with bylines.” He’s not reporting here; he’s promoting a nakedly partisan narrative. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/17: Southern Poverty Law Center Edition

A Cayman Islands sunrise!

Good Morning, Everyone!

1.For the second time in two months, I had the wrong date on yesterday’s Warm-Up. This time, I was six days off. That’s incompetence, not malice. If I made anyone miss a birthday, anniversary of other appointment, I am so, so sorry.

2. D. James Kennedy Ministries of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, an evangelical Christian ministry, is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for calling the ministry a hate group because of its stance against LGBT rights. The SPLC is an Alabama-based, self-styled  watchdog group that tracks tracks what it considers extremist organizations, and it publicly names organizations it considers hate groups. It considers hate groups to be any group that is sufficiently aggressive in opposing certain core progressive positions. The entire operation is a masterpiece of self-validating virtue. The name was carefully chosen to signal unimpeachable virtue: it’s “Southern,” so its stance against discrimination is obviously defient and in opposition to its surrounding culture and biases. Though little of its activity involves poverty, the name also signals charity and virtuous motives.  What’s a law center? Well. I grdauted from one, and that was a law school. The Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t a law school, but doesn’t the name sound impressive? Originally, the SPLC acted as a public interest law firm (I would call its use of “law center” misleading, and a breach of several states’ legal ethics rules if it were still a law firm), but now it is a progressive activist and propaganda organization. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but part of its schtick is to designate organizations as hate groups because, well, they say so. Then the left-leaning news media accepts their verdict as fact. You will read articles saying that there are 917 hate groups in the U.S. No, there are 917 groups the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “hate groups.” .Many of the organizations on the SPLC’s list are undeniably racist and violent. Many are not, or may not be. Lumping them all together as “hate groups” is an effective way to demonize dissent. “Hate group” has no accepted definition, but SPLC defines a ‘general hate group” thusly: “These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs that are not easily categorized.”

Got it. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a hate group by its own definition. To be a reliable arbiter of whether a group is promoting hate rather than a just a controversial policy position, a group would have to be non-partisan, objective and politically neutral. all things that the SPLC is not. This is an organization that designated groups that espouse view that it hates as hate groups.

I hate that. Continue reading

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First Parmesan Cheese, An Now This: A Judge Bends Over Backwards To Let The New York Times Escape Its Abuse of Journalism Rights

Oh, we knew Palin had nothing to do with this wacko, but it sure felt good to stick it to her anyway…

Federal judge Jed S. Rakoff  has dismissed Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times, ruling that she had failed to show that the Times  defamed her in its June editorial stating that she was responsible in part for the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others by the deranged Jared Loughner. Rakoff’s  ruling argued that the statements in the Times editorial were ambiguous (where have I heard this before?), and thus did not qualify as “provably false,” resulting in insufficient evidence that the Times had written the story with “actual malice.”

“[I]f political journalism is to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful, legal redress by a public figure must be limited to those cases where the public figure has a plausible factual basis for complaining that the mistake was made maliciously, that is, with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard of its falsity,” Rakoff wrote.

Right. Except that to write what it did, the New York Times Editors had to be unaware of what the Times itself had reported regarding Palin’s alleged culpability for the shooting. The Times reported, in great detail at the time, that the claim that Palin’s website had inspired Loughner was completely without merit.

A newspaper’s editors impugning a public figure by blaming her for multiple murders and the attempted assassination of a Congresswoman without checking its own reporting doesn’t qualify as “reckless disregard of its falsity”? If that isn’t reckless disregard, what is? Continue reading

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Professor Volokh’s Ethics Dissent On The Vicious, Pazuzu-Blaming Professor’s Firing

‘Yes, I know he’s an idiot, but we should support idiots as highly paid teachers of our children, for the protection of the non-idiots…

Eugene Volokh is one of the best and most objective legal minds in the country. If he finds himself on the Supreme Court when Kennedy retires or Ginsberg shuffles off this mortal coil, we will not have suffered through the ugliness of the Trump years in vain. When he opines, I listen, as we all should, and he has now opined regarding the now fired idiot that I wrote about this morning, ex-University of Tampa visiting sociology professor Ken Storey.

Storey used Twitter, in the middle of the still-unfolding human disaster in Houston and soon New Orleans, to announce that flooding victims who were Trump supporters or Republicans deserved to die. He did this twice, so his later claim that his words did not intentionally convey what his words were obviously intended to convey was a desperate and obvious lie.

I wrote:

The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Today, in the Washington Post, Professor Volokh advocates a different position:

Storey’s comments were nasty and mean-spirited; and I should note that the University of Tampa is a private university, in a state that doesn’t limit private employers’ ability to fire employees for their speech. The university’s actions thus seem legal (assuming they didn’t breach any contract). And Storey’s comments also weren’t academic or likely to be part of a serious political debate.

But the university’s action strikes me as further undermining the freedom of expression and debate at American universities, including the freedom to say things that are much more thoughtful. If you were an untenured faculty member at the University of Tampa, would you feel free to express your views on controversial subjects, when you saw how the university reacted to this tweet? Even if your views were very different politically, what do you think the University would do if people started pressuring for your dismissal, pointing to the Storey incident as precedent?

I’ve talked before about “censorship envy,” one mechanism through which these sorts of speech restrictions can grow: “If my neighbor — and especially my political adversary — gets to ban speech he reviles,” the thinking goes, “why shouldn’t I get to do the same?”

If a university has a strong policy of protecting speech, including offensive speech, administrators can point to that policy as a means of resisting calls for firing a controversial faculty member, and they can appeal to people’s desire to see speakers on their own side protected, and use that desire to help protect speakers on all sides. But once the university starts firing some people for speech “that do[es] not reflect [the university’s] community views or values,” that makes it much harder to resist calls for more suppression. Indeed, at that point tolerating speech starts implicitly conveying the message that the speech does reflect the university’s community views or values — and to avoid that implication, the university would have to fire any speaker who offended some sufficiently influential constituency.

I am very confident that in this rare case, Prof. Volokh is dead wrong. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/30/17: A Vicious Professor, Pazuzu, And Kathy Griffin Revokes Her Apology

[ Just to remind you how good Debbie, Gene and Donald were. Note that these dancers skipped the staircase..]

GOOD Morning…

I’m changing the Warm-Up headlines to reflect the topics covered. I may even go back and revise the old headlines. It took a while, but I realized that having dozens of essentially identical post titles with only a date as the distinction made archive research harder than it had to be.

1.I would have headlined the story of now fired visiting University of Tampa professor Ken Storey “Vicious, bigoted and possessed by the Demon Pazuzu is no way to go through academia, son,” but so many professors have used social media to make outrageous and offensive statements that the ethics issue is getting repetitious. (I think Jonathan Turley has done a post on each one of them, and will continue to on his blog.)

The question is whether a college or university is breaching its commitment to free expression and academic freedom when it fires a professor who says that all men are rapists, or that whites should be exterminated, or, in Storey’s case,

When asked later if this theory also applied to Florida,  and Trump supporters there deserved a similar fate.the Florida college professor replied,

“Yep, those who voted for him here deserve it as well.”

The answer is no. The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Ken compounded his ethical offense by the standards of Ethics Alarms by issuing a terrible apology that evoked the Pazuzu excuse. Realizing that he had gone too far, he tweeted,

“I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly.”

Translation: “Oops. My hateful expression of glee over the tragedy afflicting Texans seems to have put my job in jeopardy. I regret that, so I have pulled down my tweet and am pretending to be sorry. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group, even though somehow my tweet wished ill on a group in the clearest terms, and I doubled down on it. Someone or something else must have been responsible. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly. (Saying that will let me keep my job, right?)”

This is a #10 apology on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, the worst there is:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

Storey was fired.

Good.

2. Speaking of phony apologies, Kathy Griffin, she of the Bloody Head, went all the way to Australia to reveal that she really isn’t sorry about representing that the beheading of a U.S. President is hilarious: Continue reading

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